I don’t watch Woody Allen movies. I think he and Roman Polanski should be sitting behind bars until they rot. Don’t even dare play R. Kelly music around me. There’s a long list of artists I refuse to support, even though some may call them geniuses or like to use the sugarcoated term “flawed geniuses.” And after his soon-to-be-aired interview with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes, Nate Parker has been added to that list.
By now you should be quite familiar with Parker’s story. In 1999, as a college student at Pennsylvania State University, Parker and his now writing partner, Jean Celestin, were charged with raping a 20-year-old college student. Both men stated that the sex was consensual. The woman, who is now deceased, said she was unconscious and did not consent. After the incident, the woman said she was harassed by both men on campus. And she even attempted suicide.
Whereas Parker was acquitted in 2001, Celestin was found guilty and was sentenced to six months in prison, but he appealed and the verdict was overturned, and a second trial set for 2005 did not occur because the woman did not want to testify again.
Fox Searchlight, the studio behind Parker’s upcoming movie The Birth of a Nation, attempted to get in front of the controversy before it was rehashed (the information was already on his Wikipedia page) by having Parker speak about the charges and subsequent trial in an interview with Variety magazine. Parker told Variety that it was a “very painful moment” in his life: “It resulted in it being litigated. I was cleared of it. That’s that. Seventeen years later, I’m a filmmaker. I have a family. I have five beautiful daughters. I have a lovely wife. I get it. The reality is I can’t relive 17 years ago. All I can do is be the best man I can be now.”
Shortly after he made that statement, it was disclosed that Parker’s accuser had committed suicide in 2012. A day after that information hit, Parker took to Facebook and said the sex he had with the woman had been “unambiguously consensual.” And now, just a week before The Birth of a Nation is released, Parker’s first televised interview since the controversy erupted will air on 60 Minutes.
In the interview, which airs Sunday, Parker speaks with Cooper about the night of the alleged rape. And it’s his comments that have now placed him in the same category as the men I mentioned above.
“Do you feel guilty about anything that happened that night?” Cooper asks in the clip that was made available Thursday.
“I don’t feel guilty,” Parker responds.
So let me get this straight.
You go from stating on Facebook:
There is morality; no one who calls himself a man of faith should even be in that situation. As a 36-year-old father of daughters and person of faith, I look back on that time as a teenager and can say without hesitation that I should have used more wisdom.
I look back on that time, my indignant attitude and my heartfelt mission to prove my innocence with eyes that are more wise with time. I see now that I may not have shown enough empathy even as I fought to clear my name. Empathy for the young woman and empathy for the seriousness of the situation I put myself and others in
… to not even feeling guilty about an incident about which you say you should have used more wisdom?
I’m not going to give a person a pass because he said he was a “teenager” at 19 years old and made a mistake. At this point, I don’t expect Parker to apologize for what happened, and most people will ask, “Apologize for what? Feel guilty about what?”
Parker maintains that he didn’t rape the woman. Sure, keep telling that story. I’ll let him have his version of what happened that night. But how about feeling guilty for leaving a drunken woman in a bedroom and making her readily available for other men to have sex with? At least, according to testimony offered during trial, one man had the common sense to look at the situation and determine that it didn’t “look right.” How about feeling guilty for the text messages that were sent following the incident, messages that definitely showed no remorse for what happened to her?
I’ve seen people throw around the word “sociopath” when someone lacks guilt, but that may be a little too harsh to use in this situation. Parker wrote about “empathy” and “morality” in his Facebook post. But he doesn’t think guilt applies to him.
In the 60 Minutes interview, Parker even discusses how he feels about apologizing to the accuser and her family.
“I was falsely accused … I went to court … I was vindicated. I feel terrible that this woman isn’t here … her family had to deal with that, but as I sit here, an apology is—no,” Parker states.
Well, I’m not going to feel guilty about not seeing Parker’s movie.
Parker’s version of Nat Turner’s story isn’t going to save the world. Parker’s version of Nat Turner’s story isn’t going to stop police from killing unarmed black people. Parker’s version of Nat Turner’s story isn’t some revolutionary act. It’s a movie. And it’s not the end-all, be-all of Turner’s life. People should know Turner’s story, but people should also know when the feeling of guilt is appropriate.
It’s crazy how people forget that there are other ways to learn about Turner’s life. First, if you’re not knowledgeable about Turner’s life, there’s the Turner archive at the University of North Carolina. There are documents upon documents about Turner on that site.
But if you want to spend your money and make Fox Searchlight richer (because that’s who will truly benefit from the box-office ticket sales; Parker’s already been paid. And, remember, that’s the “white” Hollywood some of y’all love to scream you hate), go right ahead. But Parker, along with Allen, Kelly, Polanski and others like them, will never get one brown penny out of me.